Top 10 Tips for Father's Day from a Dad of 10

ST. LOUIS -- The 10 children of Randall Flanery, Ph.D., associate professor of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University and a psychologist, know better than to buy him a tie as a Father's Day gift.

"I love it when they give me a gift certificate to a bookstore. I get two gifts in one -- books and the chance to browse a bookstore without feeling guilty about spending time away from my family," says Dr. Flanery, whose children range in age from 6 to 26.

For Dr. Flanery, who specializes in treating children and adolescents in his psychology practice, fatherhood represents a curious mix of challenges.

"Men should be made of steel and velvet. Know you can be both strong and nurturing. Fathers have a unique opportunity to do that."

Sometimes that means telling a 16 year-old son, 'No, you can't drive to Florida with two friends over spring break," in the morning and consoling him the same afternoon because he didn't make the junior varsity baseball team.

"The most effective parenting comes when you don't plan for it, such as those times when your child calls at 12:30 a.m. and asks to stay out an extra three hours because a bunch of friends want to go to a party. What if that phone rings, and no one's there to pick it up?"

10 Gems of Wisdom

That in mind, Dr. Flanery shares his top 10 tips for fathers.

1. Run a benevolent dictatorship. "Some parents find it hard to assert their authority. They try to appeal to reason when, sometimes, what the situation calls for is 'No,'" Dr. Flanery says.

2. Be friendly, but not a friend. Parenting requires a higher standard of behavior than being a friend. Dads need to be concerned about what is good for their children, not just what they want.

3. Admit when you're wrong. It sends out the right signal that Dad is big enough to acknowledge his mistakes and move along.

4. Remain firmly flexible. Your children are growing and changing all of the time. While your family values should remain consistent, a 5-year old needs different limits than a 10-year old.

5. Stick around, even when they don't want you to. One of the jobs of adolescents is to pull away as they struggle to become more adult. One of the challenges of being a parent is to love them in spite of it.

6. Ask questions. "But don't expect to always get answers," Dr. Flanery says. "Just asking the question is enough to start children thinking."

7. Don't take it personally if they express unhappiness. Children are likely to complain if they don't get their way. Shrug it off.

8. Know that parenting is 24/7, and then some. "Being a parent is unrelenting. There's no time off; you don't get to check out."

9. Keep in mind that who you are is more important than what you buy them. "Who you are seeps into their pores and goes away with them long after they've forgotten whether or not you've taken them to McDonalds," Dr. Flanery says.

10. Laugh. When they're little, they'll break your back. When they're bigger, they sometimes break your heart. So learn to take the bitter with the better, and laugh.